Indian business schools: Focussing on diversity

 | April 11,2011 12:47 pm IST

Indian business school classrooms have always been dominated by engineering graduates. For most engineering aspirants in the country, it is a natural career progression.

A bachelors degree in engineering followed by an MBA from a leading business school in India or abroad.

An MBA degree helps engineers progress beyond the technical education space to pick up skills pertaining to the wider areas of management such as finance, marketing, human resource management, organisational behaviour, and management strategy. In the long-term, this leads to better jobs, higher salaries and career advancement.

Indian MBAs in engineering

There are many notable examples of Indian engineering graduates with MBA degrees who have held senior positions in top global firms. Rajat Gupta, senior partner at McKinsey & Company and Arun Sarin, former CEO of Vodafone being good examples amongst others.

Over the years, Indian business schools have been trying to increase diversity in their campuses, with little success. This year too, admissions data collated from business schools across the country indicates that, once again engineering graduates form an overwhelming majority in most campuses.

According to the BW-Synovate B-school Survey 2010 conducted by research agency Synovate in collaboration with Businessworld magazine, 87% of students at the top 10 business schools are engineering graduates.

Take the case of the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) for instance.

At the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM-B), the 2010-12 admissions list had 349 engineers out of a total of 375, including 70 women. At IIM Ahmedabad, the current batch has 369 engineers out of 385 students. According to media reports, engineers have secured a significant number of seats in IIM Calcutta. Around 93% of candidates admitted to the 2009-11 batch are engineers, while the rest are from other streams.

At other management schools across the country such as the Management Development Institute (MDI) at Gurgaon, the Institute of Management Technology (IMT) Ghaziabad and and the Symbiosis Institute of Business Management (SIBM), Bangalore, there is a high proportion of engineers as well. MDI’s 2009 batch had 90% engineers while IMT has over 80% students with engineering first degrees. At SIBM Bangalore’s 2009-11 batch, 104 out of 177 students have an engineering background.

Engineering students and MBA admissions

In fact, engineering students have been known to have an edge over students from other academic streams right from the time MBA admissions are conducted.

While technical knowledge is a plus point for most engineering graduates, managerial skills are essential for career growth. The reason why an MBA degree is important.

“Engineering students have technical expertise, however most of them lack managerial skills and knowledge,” explains Dr A M Sherry, director of the IMT - Centre for Distance Learning and chairman of the Joint Admission Committee of IMT Group of Institutions. “To become a better engineer, managerial skills and knowledge are also required.”

Mr Nikhil Indrasenan, business head of training at Ma Foi Randstad, an HR consultancy firm in India agrees.

“An MBA degree equips the students to integrate a range of functional skills and the course is designed to be intellectually challenging and practically relevant. An MBA prepares the student for development of a career in business and management,” says Indrasenan.

Diversity at Indian business schools

While engineering students are clearly leading the race for MBA admissions, many business schools in India are attempting to increase diversity on campus by recruiting more female candidates and students from other academic streams.

“Though the proportion of engineering students in the IMT is about 80%, we try to take in the best available students from other streams such as commerce and humanities,” says Dr Sherry.

Institutes such as the IMT also place a lot of importance on extra-curricular activities during the admissions process. Often, many companies sponsor their employees for MBA programs.

“We give preference to those students who are sponsored by corporates irrespective of their background so that they may become better managers and valuable assets for the corporates who sponsor them,” notes Sherry.

The IIMs, on their part, focus on gender, academic records and work experience apart from admission test scores in a bid to include students from other backgrounds. Inspite of these efforts, student profile is clearly skewed in favour of engineering graduates.

As IIM alumnus Sanjeev Bikhchandani, founder and CEO of Indian jobs portal Naukri.com, writes in his blog: “Today India’s best business schools including IIM-A seem to be ignoring the value of diversity in the class. Today, the admission policy at IIM-A has changed - 93% of the students in the current first year batch are engineers – a retrograde move. If you reduce diversity you produce clones.”

Despite the criticism, engineers come out with flying colours during placement season, with impressive offers from IT and technology companies. “Companies operating in the engineering and technological space prefer to recruit engineers with an MBA degree,”says Sherry.

 

The QS World MBA Tour visits New Delhi on April 10th and Mumbai on April 12th, where registered attendees will have the opportunity to meet both national and international business schools. The tour also visits various destinations accross North America, Europe, Africa and Asia.

Concluded.

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